Growing up, I wasn't always the most neat or organized young person. When I was in school, ADD was not something that was commonly diagnosed; especially in girls.
In first grade, I wasn't reading, but the grown-ups who were trained to know better, didn't realize that I was simply bored with Dick and Jane books.
It wasn't until I was sitting at the breakfast table while my father was reading the newspaper across from me and I read aloud, "boy, seven drowns in lake." My father lowered his paper and asked, "who said that?"
My mother, with great pleasure and excitement, told him that it was his daughter.
Throughout elementary, middle and high school, my parents were told, "she so smart, she just doesn't apply herself." My life was chaotic and disorganized. My bedroom, school folders, bookbag and locker were reflections of my impossible struggle to maintain order and structure.
Most days, you couldn't see the floor in my bedroom and my school locker became a test of skill. I learned to open and close it quickly without having an avalanche of papers, books and clothing tumble to the floor.
I would complete assignments, but managed to lose them before handing it in or completely forgot that it was due.
Once I reached the point of being overwhelmed, I would throw in the towel and just give up.
My mother, the disciplinarian, was old school and her parenting technique was punishment, instead of helping me to learn ways to manage my life.
I went to college, but dropped out because I allowed too many distractions to keep me focused on what I was there for.
When I finally returned to college, I was the mother of an eight-year-old boy, who had been diagnosed with ADD. It was then that I realized why my early years had been such a struggle.
I learned ways to manage my life and maintain order, while limiting chaos as much as possible.
I have been accused of being a perfectionist and even labeled a control freak, but just brush the insults off my shoulders.
Sometimes, if I feel like it, I'll explain why I am the way I am, but it's on a need-to-know basis.
I like to explain to people that I am pretty damn good at juggling!
I can have five or six balls flipping and tossing in the air, but if a seventh ball unexpectedly comes into play, they will all come tumbling down. Sometimes it's easy to pick them up and start juggling again. Other times, I may just leave the balls right there until I'm emotionally ready to take that challenge on again.
Right now, I've got about six balls in the air.
I just moved to a new state, started a new job and learning my way while also searching for a permanent place to live. I'm finalizing a divorce and name change and all that comes with it (new ID, social security card, passport...), digging myself out of a deep financial hole that grew deeper during months of unemployment, and today I had to send a second nastygram to the moving company demanding status on delivery of my belongings that have to go into a storage unit until I move into my new place!
Some advice that I have given to my sons over the years when they have felt overwhelmed by life is that they can't eat the elephant in one bite. You have to decide which part of the elephant you want to eat first and then slowly work your way through it, giving yourself time to let what you have already eaten digest.
I met with my therapist when I went back to my old state to pack for the big move and she reminded me of the elephant. She encouraged me practice what I've been preaching and to not be overwhelmed.
"I know," I said. "But I feel like I'm trying to work my way around the elephant and all I see is its big-ole ass! I try to move to the left and his ass moves left. I shift to the right and there's that ass again. I've got elephant ass all up in my face!"
"Well, get a nice steak knife and start with his ass then," she suggested. "It's probably the most tender!"
We laughed, but she was right. I had gotten so focused on the elephant blocking my view that I started to feel helpless.
"Just keep telling yourself that it won't always be this way," she said in a reassuring tone.
I paused, and took in her words.
I was so focused on the elephant's ass, that I couldn't see that it won't always be this way.
I started a new job, which means steady income, which means I can slowly start paying off my debt. I found a new place to live and can move in next month. The divorce and name change have been finalized and that nastygram to the moving company landed in the right hands and my things should arrive by the end of the week.
So, when things are coming at you from different directions, just keep telling yourself that you can't eat the elephant in one bite.
Do you like white meat or dark meat? Grab yourself a jar of barbecue sauce or some Frank's Red Hot (we put that sh*t on everything) and work your way through that elephant.
It's not an eating competition.
You're not Joey Chestnut and you don't have to consume a whole elephant in sixty seconds.
Take your time. Relax.
Don't give yourself indigestion.
Sometimes leftovers taste better the next day.
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